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Chapter 1. Idyll I: ΘΥΡΣΙΣ Η ΩΙΔΗ
Artificiality is a term which has become a commonplace of Theocritean criticism—often as a term of praise. It is not usually associated with the archaizing aspect of the poems, but rather with their Hellenistic elaboration and neologisms; Gow makes this point in introducing his recension:
ἴδμεν δ᾽, εὖτ᾽ ἐθέλωμεν, ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι. 
For Hesiod, this did not imply more than the pervasive discrepancies between appearance and reality characteristic of life (which subsumed art).  In the disturbing paradoxes of Circe’s island, the deceptions and disguises employed by Odysseus, the tragic delusion of Hector outside the walls, or the strategic allure of Hera in Iliad XIV, traditional poetry showed its awareness of the distinction between seeing and being. In the Fifth Century, this awareness distilled into a fundamental concern of tragedy, generating the problematic Odysseus of the Philoctetes, the central figure of Oedipus, Dionysus in The Bacchae, and the lament of Theseus in the Hippolytus:
σαφές τι κεῖσθαι καὶ διάγνωσιν φρενῶν,
ὅστις τ᾽ ἀληθής ἐστιν ὅς τε μὴ φίλος,
δισσάς τε φωνὰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους ἔχειν, … 
Ἁδύ τι τὸ ψιθύρισμα καὶ ἁ πίτυς, αἰπόλε, τήνα,
ἃ ποτὶ ταῖς παγαῖσι, μελίσδεται, ἁδὺ δὲ καὶ τὺ
The decisive element in poetry is the “expression of significant emotion, emotion which has its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet. The emotion of art is impersonal.”
῾Αδύ τι τὸ ψιθύρισμα καὶ ἁ πίτυς αἰπόλε τήνα,
ἃ ποτὶ ταῖς παγαῖσι μελίσδεται, ἁδὺ δὲ καὶ τὺ
συρίσδες· μετὰ Πᾶνα τὸ δεύτερον ἆθλον ἀποισῇ.
αἴκα τῆνος ἕλῃ κεραὸν τράγον, αἶγα τὺ λαψῇ.
5 αἴκα δ᾽ αἶγα λάβῃ τῆνος γέρας, ἐς τὲ καταρρεῖ
ἁ χίμαρος· χιμάρῳ δὲ καλὸν κρέας, ἕστέ κ᾽ ἀμέλξῃς.
῞Αδιον ὦ ποιμὴν τὸ τεὸν μέλος ἢ τὸ καταχὲς
τῆν᾽ ἀπὸ τᾶς πέτρας καταλείβεται ὑψόθεν ὕδωρ.
αἴκα ταὶ Μοῖσαι τὰν οἰίδα δῶρον ἄγωνται,
10 ἄρνα τὺ σακίταν λαψῇ γέρας· αἰ δέ κ᾽ ἀρέσκῃ
τήναις ἄρνα λαβεῖν, τὺ δὲ τὰν ὄιν ὕστερον ἀξῇ.
Nature in Idyll I provides neither revelation nor relief, according to this succinct formulation of William Empson, but a correspondence that transcends the mediation of magical connection or the implicit dependence of imagined sympathy. Nature in Theocritean pastoral does not “fit man,” assuming a one-sided adaptation to a given pattern; rather, the two fit together, participating in one order that involves them in equivalent, if not identical, roles.
ᾡπόλος ὅκκ᾽ ἐσορῇ τὰς μηκάδας οἷα βατεῦνται,
τάκεται ὀφθαλμώς, ὅτι οὐ τράγος αὐτὸς ἔγεντο.
But the actual ἀιπόλος of the Idyll sees his flock differently. When he chides them, in the last lines of the poem, his tone is ebullient and tender. Jovial admonition caps a series of exclamations and imperatives.
πλῆρές τοι σχαδόνων, καὶ ἀπ᾽ Αἰγίλω ἰσχάδα τρώγοις
ἁδεῖαν, τέττιγος ἐπεὶ τύγα φέρτερον ᾁδεις.
ἠνίδε τοι τὸ δέπας· θᾶσαι φίλος, ὡς καλὸν ὄσδει·
῾Ωρᾶν πεπλύσθαί νιν ἐπὶ κράναισι δοκησεῖς.
ὧδ᾽ ἴθι Κισσαίθα, τὺ δ᾽ ἄμελγέ νιν. αἱ δὲ χίμαιραι,
οὐ μὴ σκιρτασεῖτε, μὴ ὁ τράγος ὔμμιν ἀναστῇ.
The exuberance that cites the pleasures of both the honey and the comb, that precisely invokes exotic sweets to complement those of home and heaps up sensations of hearing and scent with ones of taste; that widens its scope to foreign parts for reward (147), wild nature for comparison (148), and the haunts of the gods for a graceful hyperbole of origin (150), smoothly extends the circle implicated in the harmonious interaction between shepherd and goatherd to include the herd itself. Seven lines serve to reestablish the elements and equilibrium set forth in lines 1-28, and the light touch with which these are sketched proceeds from an expansive optimism that replaces the somber mood of the Daphnis song.
ἀνθρώποις, ἵνα ᾖσι καὶ ἐσσομένοισιν ἀοιδή.
As in all the pastoral Idylls, there is no commentary on the particular subject of the βουκολικὴ ἀοιδή, but rather an attentive and evaluative consideration of the given performance. The Goatherd neither identifies himself with nor dissociates himself from τὰ Δάφνιδος ἄλγε᾽ (19). Lycidas’ song in Idyll VII assigns the woes of Daphnis and the imprisonment of Comatus to a singer who is preceded or accompanied by the piping of authentic shepherds (VII, 70-72), and reference to the herdsman-status of each of these pastoral subjects is clearly made (VII, 73; 78; 87). But Thyrsis and his audience have no difficulty reassuming their actual identities as herdsmen: the singer is now impatient to begin milking, and the Goatherd ends the Idyll with full attention to his does.
He goes on to define this “dépense de prestige” more closely.
Invoking this “cultural and semantic system of reciprocity,”  Watkins places the poet’s production at its very center by means, not so much of an extended metaphor, as of a symbolic analogy:
It is in such a context that Thyrsis and the Goatherd formulate their competition and exchange their gifts. 
ἢ κατὰ Πηνειῶ καλὰ τέμπεα; ἢ κατὰ Πίνδω;
οὐ γὰρ δὴ ποταμοῖο μέγαν ῥόον εἴχετ᾽ ᾿Ανάπω,
οὐδ᾽ Αἴτνας σκοπιάν, οὐδ᾽ ῎Ακιδος ἱερὸν ὕδωρ.
The scope of the haunts of the absent nymphs, the emphasis on the remote habitat of Daphnis’ wild mourners (71-72), and the journeys taken by his human and divine visitors establish a spatial context as well. The situation of “Daphnis wasting” (66) is initially shown, then, as a locus of attention in space, time, and degree (wild and tame; animal, man, and god). The breadth of response, which the performance of the present composition extends, is characterized not only quantitatively but qualitatively. The opening question introduces a note of remonstrance or regret, as if the absent nymphs had lost an opportunity to aid or console Daphnis. The insistent questions to the nymphs establish a pattern of repetition that marks the poem as a whole, but also an initial mood of anxious inquiry that pervades the first part of the Daphnis song. The somber parallel clauses that build up the assembly of mourning animals (71-75), inarticulate and symmetrical as a funeral frieze, are counterpointed by the crescendo of questions directed at Daphnis. No character addresses Daphnis more than once, and each asks an unanswered question. Hermes wants to know “who?”; the herdsmen, “what?”; Priapus, “why?”—and they meet with silence, while Aphrodite’s arch inquiry is countered with a pair of defiant questions in return (100-102; 105).
ἦ ῥ᾽ οὐκ αὐτὸς ῎Ερωτος ὑπ᾽ ἀργαλέω ἐλυγίχθης;’
He meets her without illusion, unceremoniously dismissing her simper in three epithets that invoke her hostility in unvarnished terms.
Κύπρι νεμεσσατά, Κύπρι θνατοῖσιν ἀπεχθής·
ἤδη γὰρ φράσδῃ πάνθ᾽ ἅλιον ἄμμι δεδύκειν·
To the playful tone of her barbed question, he opposes a stark inquiry that translates her conventional metaphor of wrestling into an image of mortality. The stylized conflict, the regulated violence of the athletic match are both exposed as a sham, a veneer to render the savage truth respectable, to bring the unspeakable into repartee. Like Achilles with Lykaon and later Hector, Daphnis has passed beyond participation in false covenants.
πάσας ἀνὰ κράνας, πάντ᾽ ἄλσεα ποσσὶ φορεῖται–
. . . .
ζάτεισ᾽; ἆ δύσερώς τις ἄγαν καὶ ἀμήχανος ἐσσί.
βούτας μὰν ἐλέγευ, νῦν δ᾽ αἰπόλῳ ἀνδρὶ ἔοικας.
ᾡπόλος ὅκκ᾽ ἐσορῇ τὰς μηκάδας οἷα βατεῦνται,
τάκεται ὀφθαλμώς, ὅτι οὐ τράγος αὐτὸς ἔγεντο.
. . . .
καὶ τὺ δ᾽ ἐπεί κ᾽ ἐσορῇς τὰς παρθένος οἶα γελᾶντι,
τάκεαι ὀφθαλμώς, ὅτι οὐ μετὰ ταῖσι χορεύεις.’
τὼς δ᾽ οὐδὲν ποτελέξαθ᾽ ὁ βουκόλος, ἀλλὰ τὸν αὐτῶ
ἄνυε πικρὸν ἔρωτα, καὶ ἐς τέλος ἄνυε μοίρας·
These sole explanatory references are largely elusive—or allusive, if one makes the reasonable assumption that they invoke a myth that we have lost, but which was recognized on slight evidence by the contemporary audience. That the crux of Daphnis’ ἄλγε᾽ (19) is Ἔρως seems to be the clear point. Priapus call him δύσερώς τις ἄγαν καὶ ἀμήχανος (85), and this is undisputedly his situation, although on another level he is powerful enough to turn the tables and (103) be “a bitter pain to Love.” Whether Daphnis is an unwilling lover, an unfaithful lover, or an unrequited lover is obscure, but there is no question but that a πικρὸν ἔρωτα is the source of Daphnis’ crisis. This is sufficient for the purposes of Theocritean pastoral, in which love is always a disturbing factor for the individual, as we shall see in the course of our discussion. What the poem concerns itself with—and what it presents in careful detail—is the response of Daphnis to his situation and the reciprocal response of his human, natural, and divine environment to his plight. Our initial frustration may be mitigated if we realize that the Daphnis song gives us the information that we need to understand it, and that its omissions are relevant only to our curiosity, not to our comprehension.
λάθρια μὲν γελάοισα, βαρὺν δ᾽ ἀνὰ θυμὸν ἔχοισα, …
yet transparently reveals her hidden agenda: vengeance for outraged pride. Her motives are not unlike those of the Aphrodite of Euripides’ Hippolytus. The coyness and indirection with which she taunts Daphnis, the emphatic contrast of her motives and manner, make her the very type of duplicity and the elemental adversary of Daphnis, whose integrity is his definitive quality.
ἕρπε ποτ’ Ἀγχίσαν· τηνεὶ δρύες ἠδὲ κύπειρος,
αἱ δὲ καλὸν βομβεῦντι ποτὶ σμάνεσσι μέλισσαι.
. . . .
ὡραῖος χὤδωνις, ἐπεὶ καὶ μῆλα νομεύει
καὶ πτῶκας βάλλει καὶ θηρία πάντα διώκει.
. . . .
αὖθις ὅπως στασῇ Διομήδεος ἆσσον ἰοῖσα,
καὶ λέγε· τὸν βούταν νικῶ Δάφνιν, ἀλλὰ μάχευ μοι.’
Yet the object of Daphnis’ revulsion is not women, but Aphrodite herself, who is attacked curiously, not as the agent of infatuation, but as its victim. Daphnis makes no issue of the justice or injustice of his own plight or of the common condition of subjection to love; he proposes no alternatives, like Hippolytus’ sexless procreation, and leaves the righteousness of his position unargued. On the model of his own victory, he identifies her “defeat” with the series of lovers whom she has been unable to resist. Their mortality links them with him as “victors” over the force of Cypris.
From the passion-flower at the gate,
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate
The red rose cries, ‘She is near, she is near;’
And the white rose weeps, ‘She is late;’
The larkspur listens, ‘I hear, I hear;’
And the lily whispers, ‘I wait.’
Δάφνις ὁ τὼς ταύρως καὶ πόρτιας ὧδε ποτίσδων.
He identifies himself in terms of his cattle-herd, his action in pasturing and watering them, and the locale, with special reference to the cited mountains, forests, and named rivers in which this herdsman’s life has been led. Place, physical and functional, is his standard for self-definition.
Yet the pathos of his death is not diminished.
This statement of Eliade is too strong to apply to Daphnis, or even to the heroes of unquestionably archaic Greek poetry. The memories of home that Achilles and Odysseus preserve are—whatever else they may be—personal, and of crucial importance in establishing just that tension between the individual’s felt affinities and his more complex final identity, with its decisive component of external events and circumstances, which, as one element, underlies the action of Homeric epic. In the hierarchy of values, however, embodied by Daphnis, the pathos of his personal death is overwhelmed by the triumph of his impersonal survival: a constellation that may be called tragic.
The appeal of Daphnis is to a norm; his freedom consists in affirming commitment to that norm, in a statement to which individuality in the modern sense is incidental. The individual is the relevant unit for action, but not for consciousness. Sexual love is rejected, not in its particularity of object or outcome but because its very essence is particularity, insistence on the personal in a sense that is creative to the modern, but reductive to the archaic, mind. Daphnis dies, not prudishly resisting one erotic experience or pettishly demanding another, but in opposition to an intrusive and annihilating authority. What distinguishes him from a modern hero is that he dies to maintain (for he cannot defend) not his individuality, but his impersonality.
Identifying a religious manifestation of this phenomenon of “anhistoricity,” Mircea Eliade speaks of “the transformation of the dead person into an ‘ancestor’ [which] corresponds to the fusion of the individual into an archetypical category.”  In a rhetorical question, Eliade comments on this fundamental orientation toward human identity, asking
ἐκ Μοιρᾶν, χὡ Δάφνις ἔβα ῥόον. ἔκλυσε δίνα
τὸν Μοίσαις φίλον ἄνδρα, τὸν οὐ Νύμφαισιν ἀπεχθῆ.
The incontrovertible authenticity of Daphnis’ death acts as an ultimate reflection on his values, and on the strength of his commitment to them. Yet the cause that the fact and manner of his death so dignify is precisely resistance to the “creative spontaneity” of the individual man.
ἁ δὲ καλὰ νάρκισσος ἐπ᾽ ἀρκεύθοισι κομάσαι·
πάντα δ᾽ ἔναλλα γένοιτο, καὶ ἁ πίτυς ὄχνας ἐνείκαι.
Δάφνις ἐπεὶ θνάσκει· καὶ τὼς κύνας ὥλαφος ἕλκοι,
κἠξ ὀρέων τοὶ σκῶπες ἀηδόσι γαρύσαιντο.
A mixture of transformations—from positive to negative, as well as negative to positive—might seem more even-handedly to convey this sense of identity reduced to miscellany. But the emphasis on the negative to positive mode serves to enforce the crucial notion here: a question not of degeneration in kind, but sheer loss of integrity, even if the translation is to a “better” or “higher” state. The situation of Odysseus, as he confronts Calypso, typifies this dimension of threat. The peculiarity of Daphnis’ statement is thus decipherable in terms of his courage. His repudiation of the pathetic fallacy is best illuminated by the comment of Ruskin, who formulated the concept itself as Chapter XII of Modern Painters, Part IV:
οὔτί πᾳ εἰς ᾿Αίδαν γε τὸν ἐκλελάθοντα φυλαξεῖς.
—to which Thyrsis responds with the song itself, as if reinforcing, with the immediacy of his answer, the urgency of threat concealed in the Goatherd’s teasing manner. Whether or not Daphnis is claiming that he will remember himself in the Underworld (102-103), in that undiminished integrity that the Odyssey establishes as rare and potent (xi), certainly the Daphnis song itself preserves his memory beyond that personal oblivion that it records. Indeed, the victory of Daphnis and Aphrodite’s defeat are reanimated in reiteration, and even in Hades, Daphnis is a bitter grief to Love.
-ετε βουκολικᾶς, Μοῖσαι – – – ετ᾽ ἀοιδᾶς.
ἡμεῖς δὲ κλέος οἶον ἀκούομεν οὐδέ τι ἴδμεν·
Gregory Nagy cites this passage from the Iliad in the course of his powerful argument for the implications of κλέος as epic poetry’s description of itself according to Indo-European patterns. The structure of the pair of lines serves also to distinguish explicitly the spheres of the Muses and of the poets, setting them forth in parallel statements whose contrast is pointed in the opening words:
ἡμεῖς δὲ …
‘you moreover …
we however …’
The point is made by means of simple opposition. While we (ἡμεῖς) mortal singers merely hear (ἀκούομεν) the song of fame (κλέος), you (ὑμεῖς) Muses are (ἐστε) goddesses, are present (πάρεστέ) at events; you know (ἴστέ) everything (πάντα), while we know (ἴδμεν) nothing (οὐδέ τι). The Muses remind the poet of his song (μνησαίαθ᾽; B495)  by the perfect authority of the original perception from which it sprang. The poet’s connection with events is indirect and vulnerable, through the fragile medium of hearing (κλέος = “that which is heard”),  while the Muses enjoy the absolute access of viewing events directly.
ὄφρα καὶ εἰν ᾿Αίδαο κεκρυμμένος ἐσθλὸς ἀκούσῃς,
μηδ᾽ ἀκλεὴς μύρηαι ἐπὶ ψυχροῦ ᾿Αχέροντος,
ὡσεί τις μακέλᾳ τετυλωμένος ἔνδοθι χεῖρας
ἀχὴν ἐκ πατέρων πενίην ἀκτήμονα κλαίων.
Nagy observes of Iliad B486, “… the collocation of ‘hearing’ and kleos bears witness to the etymology. Archaic theme reinforces archaic meaning.”  Here Theocritus rings three changes on the conception—ἀκούσῃς, ἀκλεὴς, and κλαίων—as he opens his argument for the essential service performed by the ἀιοδός for the hero, and closes this passage with the definite statement
Honor the Muses, dispensers of κλέος, and you will hear (ἀκούσῃς) your good report through their agents, the poets; ignore them and, unhonored (ἀκλεὴς), you will share the obscurity of one who has only his poverty to sound (κλαίων). Gow’s commentary (on line 30 ff.; pp. 311-312) offers numerous parallel passages expressing the desire to leave a name, and the power of poetry to secure this end. The famous complaint of Alexander that he envied Achilles his bard succinctly exemplifies the traditional connection of these ideas, which represents a fundamental Indo-European conception of the poet’s social role. 
χρὴ τὸ κακόν; μύρμακες ἀνάριθμοι καὶ ἄμετροι.
Geography has pushed back the horizon; conquest and commerce have identified myriad populations and cultures:
λήιον ἀλδήσκουσιν ὀφελλόμεναι Διὸς ὄμβρῳ·
ἀλλ᾽ οὔτις τόσα φύει, ὅσα χθαμαλὰ Αἴγυπτος,
. . . .
τρεῖς μέν οἱ πολίων ἑκατοντάδες ἐνδέδμηνται,
τρεῖς δ᾽ ἄρα χιλιάδες τρισσαῖς ἐπὶ μυριάδεσσι,
δοιαὶ δὲ τριάδες, μετὰ δέ σφισιν ἐννεάδες τρεῖς·
The pressure of this undifferentiated crowd affects Theocritus’ presentation of the singer and his potency. Anonymity and oblivion are threats with new vividness and imminence. Repeatedly, Theocritus ignores the literary annihilation of “blame” to contrast the vitality and perennial identity embodied in poetry with the elemental obscurity of death.
ὀλβίῳ ἢ κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἀρέσθαι;
τοῦτο καὶ ᾿Ατρείδαισι μένει· τὰ δὲ μυρία τῆνα,
ὅσσα μέγαν Πριάμοιο δόμον κτεάτισσαν ἑλόντες,
ἀέρι πᾳ κέκρυπται, ὅθεν πάλιν οὐκέτι νόστος·
Riches offer transient satisfaction:
θυμὸν ἐς εὐρεῖαν σχεδίαν στυγνοῦ ᾿Αχέροντος,
ἄμναστοι δὲ τὰ πολλὰ καὶ ὄλβια τῆνα λιπόντες
δειλοῖς ἐν νεκύεσσι μακροὺς αἰῶνας ἔκειντο,
εἰ μὴ κεῖνος ἀοιδὸς ὁ Κήιος αἰόλα φωνέων
βάρβιτον ἐς πολύχορδον ἐν ἀνδράσι θῆκ᾽ ὀνομαστοὺς
. . . .
᾿Εκ Μοισᾶν ἀγαθὸν κλέος ἔρχεται ἀνθρώποισι,
χρήματα δὲ ζώοντες ἀμαλδύνουσι θανόντων.
Great deeds are, in themselves, insufficient:
Πριαμίδας ἢ θῆλυν ἀπὸ χροιᾶς Κύκνον ἔγνω,
εἰ μὴ φυλόπιδας προτέρων ὕμνησαν ἀοιδοί;
οὐδ᾽ ᾿Οδυσεὺς ἑκατόν τε καὶ εἴκοσι μῆνας ἀλαθεὶς
πάντας ἐπ᾽ ἀνθρώπους, ᾿Αίδαν τ᾽ εἰς ἔσχατον ἐλθὼν
ζωός, καὶ σπήλυγγα φυγὼν ὀλοοῖο Κύκλωπος,
δηναιὸν κλέος ἔσχεν, ἐσιγάθη δ᾽ ἂν ὑφορβὸς
Εὔμαιος, καὶ βουσὶ Φιλοίτιος ἀμφ᾽ ἀγελαίαις
ἔργον ἔχων, αὐτός τε περίσπλαγχνος Λαέρτης,
εἰ μή σφεας ὤνασαν ᾿Ιάονος ἀνδρὸς ἀοιδαί.
. . . .
ἔσσεται οὗτος ἀνήρ, ὃς ἐμεῦ κεχρήσετ᾽ ἀοιδοῦ,
ῥέξας ἢ ᾿Αχιλεὺς ὅσσον μέγας ἢ βαρὺς Αἴας
ἐν πεδίῳ Σιμόεντος, ὅθι Φρυγὸς ἠρίον ῎Ιλου.
Even personal and intimate satisfactions find their ultimate dimension of fulfillment in escape from obliteration in death:
νῶιν, ἐπεσσομένοις δὲ γενοίμεθα πᾶσιν ἀοιδά.
θείω δή τινε τώδε μετὰ προτέροισι γενέσθην
φῶθ᾽, ὁ μὲν εἴσπνηλος, φαίη χ᾽ ὡμυκλαϊάσδων,
τὸν δ᾽ ἕτερον πάλιν ὥς κεν ὁ Θεσσαλὸς εἴποι ἀίταν.
ἀλλήλους δ᾽ ἐφίλησαν ἴσῳ ζυγῷ. ἦ ῥα τότ᾽ ἦσαν
χρύσειοι πάλιν ἄνδρες, ὃ κἀντεφίλησ᾽ ὁ φιληθείς.
εἰ γὰρ τοῦτο πάτερ Κρονίδα πέλοι, εἰ γὰρ ἀγήρῳ
ἀθάνατοι, γενεαῖς δὲ διηκοσίαισιν ἔπειτα
ἀγγείλειεν ἐμοί τις ἀνέξοδον εἰς ᾿Αχέροντα·
‘ἡ σὴ νῦν φιλότης καὶ τοῦ χαρίεντος ἀίτεω
πᾶσι διὰ στόματος, μετὰ δ᾽ ἠιθέοισι μάλιστα.’
The transcendence of generations, the preservation of the χρύσειοι … ἄνδρες (16)  from the dark tarnish of time are properties not of historical reputation but of the power of the αἰοδή. Theocritus throughout his poetry ignores the potential of poetry to lambaste or defame, in his emphasis on its fundamental capacity to endure in time. Just as they offer a φάρμακον (XI, 1) for the wounds of love, the Muses compensate for the final vulnerability: mortality. Song makes the past and its truths accessible to those stranded in distant times and promises continuity to the present, which otherwise the future threatens with dissolution. Survival in this context is not personal and individual, but associative and collective.
οὔτί πᾳ εἰς ᾿Αίδαν γε τὸν ἐκλελάθοντα φυλαξεῖς.
The song must be relinquished in Hades by each singer, but, unlike the man himself, need not pass to that land “ὅθεν πάλιν οὐκέτι νόστος” (XVII, 120). This conception of the oral transmission of poetry both assumes and ensures cultural continuity and social coherence, because it depends on shared interests and values that operate not as taste or opinion but as an active principle embodied—not merely expressed—in a reciprocal social interaction. If the song is not sung, it dies; if the song is not heard, its subject and its singer perish together.